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Helsinki Shipyard to build icebreaker for Russian mining firm

The vessel will be used to clear waterways around the Kara Sea, in order to ensure access to northern Siberia's Dudinka seaport.

Helsinki Shipyard
Helsinki Shipyard is located in the city's Hietalahti and Hernesaari districts. Image: Matti Myller / Yle
Yle News

Helsinki Shipyard and Russian mining firm Norilsk Nickel are to join forces in building a new icebreaker for use in northern Siberia, the companies announced on Tuesday.

Helsinki Shipyard said the new vessel would be powered by liquefied natural gas (LNG) as well as low-sulphur diesel.

Construction is scheduled to start later this year and the vessel is expected to be delivered in time for the 2025 winter season.

Helsinki Shipyard said the new ship will be "the largest and most powerful diesel-electric icebreaker ever built in Finland," able to break up two-metre-thick ice. The firm said that the vessel will also be capable of cargo transport and providing helicopter support operations.

The company said the project will create about 2,100 person-years of employment within the shipbuilding and maritime industries. The yard is located in the city's Hietalahti and Hernesaari districts.

"Receiving the new icebreaker by the end of 2024 is very important for Nornickel as it provides additional transportation capacities needed to implement both our strategic investment projects including the city of Norilsk renovation plans. And we are happy to declare that it’s going to be fuelled by LNG which goes in line with current environmental trends on decarbonisation and will be a pioneer icebreaker on LNG exploited at Northern Sea Route," Norilsk Nickel's SVP, Sergey Dubovitskiy, said in a release.

The companies said they negotiated the arrangement last summer and signed a deal in the autumn. The cost of the project was not disclosed in the release.

When it goes into service, the new icebreaker will clear areas leading to the Kara Sea, in order to ensure access to the Dudinka seaport, in northern Siberia.

Helsinki Shipyard was founded under the name Helsingfors Skeppsdocka in 1865, and has specialised in icebreaker technologies.

In 2019, it was bought by a Cypriot firm primarily owned by Russian businessman Vladimir Kasyanenko.

A report by Yle's MOT investigative reporting team found that Kasyanenko also holds a Belgian passport, owns a home in Monaco and a cabin in southeastern Finland. He has close ties to Victor Olerskiy, former Russian deputy transport minister and head of the federal maritime transport agency.

Norilsk Nickel produces palladium and refined nickel and provides a major source of platinum and copper on the world market.

20.1: Added ownership details.

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